When I was twelve years old, I asked my dad to take me to the salon so that a stylist could cut my waist-length hair into a pixie cut.
I couldn’t stand the texture of my hair, and I was convinced that cutting it off would help me attain the picture-perfect standard of beauty I saw on the billboards and magazines. I still remember clutching a picture of my favorite celebrity with a short haircut, convinced that I would look exactly like her when I exited the salon doors.
Before last year, most people (even those who have known me for YEARS) didn’t know that my hair is a crazy combination of wavy, frizzy, and curly. I ran from this fact. I went through phases where I’d grow my hair out, straightening it every day, only to cut it all off again because it just "didn't look good" to me.
That day back in the summer of 2007 was the first of many dramatic changes that I made to my hair before I hit my mid-twenties, and it wasn’t the last time I’d make a decision about my hair based on what I thought I should look like according to the world’s definition of beauty.
My hair has been all over the color wheel, and every length imaginable. But here’s why (and how!) I went from the woman who religiously dyed her hair every month to the woman who’s writing this now, sitting here with my wavy pixie cut and natural hair color.
I was tired of my hair owning me
I started dying my hair when I was sixteen, rotating between a bright array of reds, blondes, browns, and blacks. I permed my hair, straightened it, chopped it off, and grew it out. I styled it in elaborate braids that I learned from the books I checked out at the library, and threw it into hats when I didn’t want to even look at myself in the mirror.
During the summer I spent on team for a local mission trip, I dyed my hair every Friday night in the bathroom sink. I’d emerge with a new color, and thoroughly confuse high school students who attended two weeks of mission with us.
In each moment of those dramatic hair shifts, I thought I was just making choices about what my hair looked like to others and myself. But after prayer and reflection, I realize that I was processing issues much deeper than my hair.
Instead of taking time to process through things I was going through emotionally, I’d reach for a hair dye box and strive to control just one thing in my life - my hair.
Our bodies reveal the invisible
Beautifully, our bodies and souls are intertwined. Saint Pope John Paul II puts this so well when he wrote: "The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it."
Through our bodies, we express our personality, quirks, and emotions. You can tell what someone's heart is going through by their facial expressions and voice intonation. So too, my haircuts and colors offered an opportunity to express the interior of my heart and experience of my interior life.
But instead of using my voice and actions to describe what was going on in my heart, or the pressures I was feeling, I hid my emotions and reached for the scissors or box dye. I was making physical what was going on in my heart and soul, but not in the healthiest way.
Desiring to be seen
Anytime I wanted to feel confident, I would head over to my local hairstylist and get my hair trimmed (or, if I was really striving for confidence, I’d chop all of my hair off). When I felt out of control, or thought that I wasn’t being known, loved, or cared for, I’d pull a bottle of hair dye off the shelf and control the small things I could, hoping the change would spark reaction from friends.
Looking back, many of my most dramatic hair changes were centered around events in my life where I felt lost, out of control, and unseen.
It only took years (and a lot of hair damage) to see that the way God made my hair is beautiful, not something to run from or hide behind. Now, before I head in for anything more than a normally scheduled haircut, I ask myself if I want a change in my hair or if I need to open up authentically with someone and process things I’ve been stuffing down.
Maybe it’s not your haircut - maybe it’s your makeup, clothing styles, or social media posts. If you are hiding things about yourself because they "don't look good," or aren't perfect, let my crazy hair journey be a reminder that God wants ALL of you.
Haircuts, hair dyes, fashion, and social media aren’t bad themselves. In fact, they’re beautiful ways that we can express our authentic selves. But sometimes, we can fall into the trap of hiding behind those things in an attempt to make it seem like our lives are all together. We don’t have to have everything together to be loved by God. We don’t have to hustle for his love.
He made you the way you are and sees you as good. He calls you daughter. What in your life is keeping you from seeing yourself through the Father’s gaze?